Lindsey Graham yells during a Senate hearing.

Lindsey Graham Is the First Vaccinated US Senator To Test Positive for COVID-19

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Senator Lindsey Graham now has the dubious honor of being the first vaccinated Senator confirmed to test positive for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection. The South Carolina politician, 66, announced today on Twitter that he had tested positive and would be quarantining for ten days.

We have many, many problems with Graham’s politics, including but not limited to his spineless supplication before Donald Trump. Trump was a man Graham called “a race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” before he won the presidential election, after which Graham couldn’t do Trump’s bidding fast enough. Graham’s duplicitous flip-flopping aside, he’s at least doing the right thing at this moment in time by emphasizing that without vaccination, his case of COVID would be much worse. (Of course, since he’s Lindsey Graham, he also stops short of recommending that others follow suit and get vaccinated.)

“I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “My symptoms would be far worse.” Twitter users were quick to point out, however, that Graham failed to spell out that other Americans should also get vaccinated.

Alas, we won’t be holding our breath to see Graham touting the life-saving vaccines on the airways anytime soon.

While I’m glad that Graham chose to share that knows his case would be considerably worse without the vaccine, I don’t think we need to congratulate public GOP figures for doing the barest of minimums. The science around the COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness at preventing serious illness and death has been clear for many months, and the Republican party continues to fiddle while their vaccine-skeptical and mask-evading constituents burn.

“Republicans are making a mockery of masks,” NBC News wrote today in an analysis that the party is cynically protesting mask mandates in an appeal to win votes in 2022, with a message that “runs on freedom from the disease while modeling behavior that promotes its spread.”

Yes, Graham is sharing his accurate experience, and one can extrapolate that he’s encouraging vaccination by example, but he never actually writes that others should do the same. We need all the “pro-vaccine messaging” we can get, yet at current many Republican politicians continue to publicly waffle when they’re not outright fighting mandates and health guidelines, even in their own chambers. Graham is perfectly capable of being more explicitly clear here.

This is an increasingly dangerous time in the pandemic, with the wildfire spread of the Delta variant upending scientists’ knowledge of the virus and causing new mandates, rules, and recommendations. After a summer in which many who were vaccinated felt comfortable taking off their masks per the CDC’s guidelines, Delta’s contagiousness and transmissibility have changed everything.

While “breakthrough infections” amongst the vaccinated still tend to emerge as milder cases, as is Graham’s experience, growing evidence suggests vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can still spread it widely. The variant is also infecting many more younger people and children, causing a rise in hospitalizations and even deaths amongst groups that had been previously considered less vulnerable to COVID-19’s devastating effects.

As CNBC writes, the CDC now believes Delta is “as contagious as chickenpox and has a longer transmission window than the original Covid strain,” and that “Health officials said Covid vaccines prevent more than 90% of severe disease, but may be less effective at preventing infection.”

Graham’s breakthrough infection should serve as a wake-up call to not only the unvaccinated but also the vaccinated to mask up again. The pandemic isn’t anywhere done with us, and we have to stop behaving like it’s over.

(via CNBC, image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.